Aims Syringe drivers are the principle method of giving continuous infusions of important drugs to patients. Many of these drugs are critical for the maintenance of normal physiology. Anecdotal evidence abounds of severe patient instability on movement of syringe drivers during infusion. Our objective was to define the variation in drug delivery seen in three different syringe drivers, with changes in relative height between the syringe driver and the end of the giving set.
Methods Three syringe drivers (Alaris CC (Becton Dickinson), Perfusor Space (B Braun), and Synamed μSP6000 (Arcomed)) were analysed for reliability of flow at 0.5, 1, 2, and 5 ml/hr. A small air bubble was introduced into the giving set, and the progression of this was documented before and after a vertical movement of the syringe driver by 25 or 50 cm upwards or downwards relative to the delivery port.
Results For all pumps, delivery was interrupted on movement of the pumps downwards, and a bolus was given with movement of the pump upwards. Delivery halted at lower pump speeds for longer than higher pump speeds. The maximum delivery interruption was 11.8 minutes. Boluses given on moving the pump up were calculated as the equivalent number of minutes needed to deliver the bolus volume at steady state. The maximum bolus given was equivalent to 15.8 minutes of delivery. We were unable to eliminate the effects seen by very slow, steady movement of the pumps up or down. Static height differences made no difference to delivery.
Conclusions Syringe drivers should not be moved vertically in relation to the patient. Critical drug delivery is interrupted for up to 12 minutes with relative downward movements, and significant boluses of drugs are given with relative upward movements. As far as possible, elimination of relative height movements is advised, and extreme caution is necessary if any movements are unavoidable.
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